cover image The Cardinal Virtues

The Cardinal Virtues

Andrew M. Greeley. Warner Books, $28 (464pp) ISBN 978-0-446-51478-1

This extremely busy follow-up to The Cardinal Sins brings back Father Larry McAuliffe (aka Lar), the former ``bomb-throwing radical'' now ``disillusioned'' pastor of St. Finian's parish. Pressure from the Cardinal persuades Lar to take on an assistant, Father Jamie Keenan, a man from what Greeley terms the ``new priesthood,'' whose homilies offend the traditionalists. Particularly offended is George Wholey, leader of the ultra-right-wing Catholic group, Corpus Christi, who makes life hard for the young priest. Fighting to save Jamie from a vile set-up helps Lar regain his youthful enthusiasm, and several parishioners benefit as well. While the plot is plausible, Greeley simply fails to engage us; with the possible exception of Lar, the characters remain two-dimensional, serving Greeley's nostalgia for those who believed in Vatican II and his revulsion for those who fought the reforms. The bestseller lists prove there are many who revel in relentless detailing of rectory life; the suggestion, however, that this tale is a taut thriller, is preposterous. Literary Guild selection; author tour. (May)